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Updated by Joanna James on Jun 23, 2019
Headline for Some Things You Should Know About Kalutara Bodhiya – Historic and Cultural Treasure
Joanna James Joanna James
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Some Things You Should Know About Kalutara Bodhiya – Historic and Cultural Treasure

Kalutara is steeped in ancient history and is a prominent centre for Buddhism. Situated near the entrance to the city, the Kalutara Bodhiya sits beside the River Kalu & is a venerated Buddhist site.


The Bodhiya Features One of the 32 Sacred Bo-Saplings

Thirty two saplings from the Jaya Sri Mahabodhiya, in Anuradhapura, were planted across the island. This was done as a decree by King Devanampiyatissa, Sri Lanka's first Buddhist king. The Sri Mahabodhiya was brought over from India as a sapling of the tree the Buddha attained nirvana under and was planted in Anuradhapura in the 2nd century. It is believed that Kalutara was one of the sites chosen to contain one of these 32 saplings. Although a Bo-tree exists as part of the venerated temple, it is unclear if this is the very same sapling planted at the time of King Devanampiyatissa. Just 10 minutes from Anantara Kalutara Resort, the Kalutara Bodhiya is a must visit for local culture and traditions.


A Cherished Buddhist Pilgrimage Site

The Kalutara Bodhiya welcomes countless pilgrims annually; no tourist staying at hotels in Kalutara can resist a visit to this sacred site as well as to the nearby temple. Spread across both ends of the main Colombo-Galle road, the temple which is known as the Kalutara Chaitya is made up on one side of the hollow chedi, while the bo-tree is located across the road on the banks of the river. The site is where river and sea meet, and the roots of the sacred tree dip into the waters of the River Kalu.


Devotees Do Not Pass this Temple without Stopping

An age old and fascinating ritual to encounter at this shrine is the offering of alms from passers-by. It is believed that who so ever passing the temple, stops and offers alms are given the protection of the Dhamma. Hence, either sides of the road, which the temple occupies are lined with tills for collecting alms, and if you stand by and observe, you will see how just about every vehicle passing by, stops for one person to alight and offer a quick prayer and drop money into the road-side tills, as alms to the temple.


The Temple is Maintained by a Society

The Kalutara Bodhiya Society was set up in 1931, mostly due to the untiring efforts Cyril de Zoysa, a philanthropist and devout Buddhist scholar made. By 1942 with development work underway, the foundation for the chaitya and lower pinnacle were laid. It was later, once the island received independence from colonial British rule in 1948, that construction if the main chedi began in 1969.


Home to a Hollow Buddhist Chaitya

The Kalutara Chaitya is one of the very few hollow Buddhist chaityas found across the globe. Inside are 74 murals, each showcase a different facet of the Buddha's life. Inside the large main stupa are four smaller chaityas. On the walls of the main stupa, paintings depicting tales from the Jathaka Katha are displayed. Visitors are welcome to enter the chaitya and explore the many artistic artefacts located there. The stupa sits at a site formerly occupied by the Gangatillaka Viharaya, which was destroyed by the invading Portuguese colonists.